WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Iconic Williams College coach Renzie Lamb was remembered Friday as a man who met everyone on their own terms.
Lamb, 81, who died Nov. 17, was buried in Williams' cemetery after a Liturgy of Christian Burial at the college's Thompson Memorial Chapel.
Celebrant the Rev. Michael C. Lillpopp, paster of Sts. Patrick & Raphael Parish, told the standing-room crowd of mourners that Lamb was a Renaissance man, as adept at discussing history and art as he was coaching young men and women, as he did for 35 years.
"At most colleges, the coaches and professors don't normally associate with one another," Lillpopp said. "But Renzie was someone who could transcend these boundaries.
"At one particular college function, he heard a group of classics professors discussing the Roman Empire. Curious, Renzie went over and sat in on the discussion, speaking fluently from his knowledge of Caesar and ancient history.
"He engaged those classics professors on their own turf."
Lamb, who lent his name along with longtime colleague Dick Farley to the recently completed turf field at Williams' Weston Field complex, impacted lives at the college for five decades, well past his retirement in 2003.
Hundreds of his former students, his contemporaries, elected officials and community leaders were on hand Friday to honor Lamb and support his wife, Teresa M. Harron-Lamb, and family.
Lillpopp reminded all of Lamb's humor, indomitable spirit and larger and than life presence on the campus.
He also shared a more personal remembrance of another time when the "educator at heart" demonstrated the breadth and depth of his knowledge.
"On a memorable trip to a museum with his granddaughter, the two of them walked through the museum together, gallery to gallery, a grandfather sharing his love of history and art with his granddaughter," Lillpopp said. "Soon, they acquired a train of followers, ordinary bystanders, who thought Renzie was the museum's docent."
Of course, most will remember Lamb the coach and mentor, the man who taught life lessons on the playing fields, along the way earning the distinction of being the first Division III coach inducted in the Intercollegiate Men's Lacross Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
As an assistant football coach, Lamb helped lead the Ephs to five perfect seasons.
And his tenure on the gridiron gave Lillpopp the perfect anecdote to show Lamb's skill as a motivator.
"In 1969, the opponent was Yale, and as Renzie watched the legendary football team get off their bus with their nice, crisp white uniforms, the players looking larger than life, he thought, 'We're going to get creamed,' " Lillpott said, drawing a chuckle from the mourners. "So he gathered his team and said, 'The nice thing about Yale, gentlemen, is that you guys were all rejected by Yale.'
"Williams beat Yale, 28-14."
An evening of tributes to Lamb is planned at The Log on Spring Street at 5 p.m. on Friday, with alumnus Jack McGonagle scheduled to serve as master of ceremonies and an open microphone that will allow all comers to share their own stories about Lamb.
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